From time he was a kid, leading Y seemed destined

Chris Tointon The soon-to-be chief executive of the metro area's YMCA organization fell in love with the group when he worked as a counselor.


In a sense, Chris Tointon has been in training to lead the YMCA of Greater Omaha since he was a 12-year-old boy running a T-ball program in Antioch, Illinois.

Tointon, now 42 years old, takes over as chief executive of the Omaha metro area's sprawling YMCA organization on April 4.

Back in 1985, he was just another sports-crazy kid but with a knack for organizing and working with others. It wasn't long, he said, before his stint at the helm of the T-ball program had him hooked.

"That was the first time I figured out that you could actually have a career where you could combine business, sports and working with kids all in one," he said. That "showed me the value of doing what you love to do."

One teenage job led to another. When Tointon became a YMCA camp counselor, he said he fell in love with the organization.

"I've had almost every job at the YMCA, and I knew long term I wanted to be involved with the YMCA," he said.

By 2000, he was leading the YMCA in Elmhurst, Illinois. Three years later, Tointon's career took a detour when he moved to the private, nonprofit world as chief executive of Greater Midland, which had been formed to manage community centers in Midland, Michigan. At Midland, Tointon helped the fledgling organization grow into the region's largest nonprofit. Those 12 years, he said, gave him a feel for the entrepreneurial side of nonprofit work.

That dual history of being steeped in the culture of the YMCA and shepherding the growth of Greater Midland is part of what drew the search team to Tointon, said Craig Lefler, president of the Greater Omaha YMCA board. The other asset that made Tointon stand out was his energy, Lefler said.

"He's got a skill set that is uniquely diverse," Lefler said. "The idea is marry those two in Omaha, to bridge the community component and the Y to strengthen our mission and presence in the community."

The YMCA long has been a part of the fabric of Omaha. It celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, Lefler noted. But as this milestone arrives, he said, it's clear that the world is changing and the Y must change with it.

Lefler and Tointon said collaborating with others in the Omaha area will be key to future successes. That includes working with the medical community and others on community wellness.

Tointon is married and has two children — a 10-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. His wife, Becca, is an educator and has been working as a paraprofessional in the Midland, Michigan, school system. Tointon said he loves animals, and their family wouldn't be complete without their dog and tortoise.

Tointon holds a bachelor's degree in organizational communication from North Central College in Illinois. He is replacing Len Romano, who left Omaha for Atlanta in November to run Christian City, a campus that houses senior citizens and troubled youth.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1102, nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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